Observations on improving the promotion of alcohol racing

Discussion in 'System One Pit Buzz' started by Will Hanna, Feb 21, 2005.

  1. Dave Germain

    Dave Germain New Member

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    Top Alcohol racing is a lot like a three legged stool. We have money in, money out and crowds. But on our stool if we fix either of two legs the other one fixes itself. Bigger crowds, better promotions means more sponsors which means more money in. Less money out equals rev limiters to limit engine damage which also limits oildowns. Better crowds means better purses. An over simplified answer is marketing and rev limiters. My father had an apple orchard, he was required to belong to the Washington State Apple Commission which was essentially a marketing organization for selling WA state apples everwhere in the world.
     
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  2. nitrohawk

    nitrohawk New Member

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    It seems as though NHRA has made a decession to promote the pro mod class. They havn't come out and made a statement about this but all you have to do is look around. Next time you check the results on their web site look at where the pro mod results are shown. They are with the pro class and have the results scrolled down just like the pro's. Guess the class name is good for something! Until NHRA changes their attitude towards the TAD/TAFC classes it will be a slippery slope. Although I agree that the oil downs are an issue it is minor and could be controlled. NHRA pays no attention to TARA as demonstrated by what happened after Indy last year with all their effort and reccomendations concerning parity. NHRA looks at the TAD/TAFC classes as sportsman classes and as one that is just a filler for the big show. They could care less if six cars showed up for a national event.
    One encouraging thing is that at the Houston nationals the stands were not empty during the qualifying sessions. This might have somthing to do with the fact that Ashley is competing. What would really help is for the division tracks to do some advertising and have a few paid in shows during the year. At the Houston div. race the track management spend some money on advertising and the stands on both sides were at a mininum over 1/2 full. These same fans will come to a National event and have an interest in the class.
    In my openion the whole structure of the points system should be changed. If there are tracks where it is unsafe to run cars at 280 mph then either NHRA should require better standards for tracks who wish to hold division races or let the cars in the division run where they wish. My whole point is that nothing the racers do in this class is going to have much impact as far as improving the purse or conditions unless NHRA gets on board. Thank God for the Lucas family. If it were not for them this class would probably already be history.
     
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  3. Thurston

    Thurston New

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    Look at the big picture from NHRA angle, this is somewhat negative but it needs to be said. NHRA will never allow an Alcohol dragster/A Fuel car to run in the 4’s or for that mater an alky funny car to run close to the 4’s. Alcohol cars running in the 4’s would take away a lot of the value NHRA has with the fuel cars. Why would spectators pay twice the price to see a Top Fuel car run 4’s (to the average spectator a 4 is a 4 whether it’s 4.90 or 4.60 only racers are concerned with tenths and hundredths on the scoreboard.) when for half the price they can see the alcohol class do basically the same thing? If alky car ran in the 4’s Glendora would lose everything they have work for promoting the top fuel class.

    Face it A Fuel cars thunder, just stand on the starting line one time when two of them go down the track, and blown alky cars lay down some pretty impressive numbers considering what they have to work with. There is value in what the alky cars do, but Glendora has a more important class and alcohol will never be as important to NHRA.

    I can tell you from personal experience that at a booked in alky show when an alky funny car runs in the 5’s or a dragster runs mid 5’s the spectators like it and show their appreciation. But these are at booked in shows where the alky cars are the stars ie: the fastest thing on the track.

    Will is correct; promoting the class at the divisional level is the key to helping the alky car survive and even prosper. If the tracks and heaven forbid NHRA would properly promote the points races I believe thing would improve to the point where alky cars would not need to attend national events. Why would anyone want to continually race at a place where they feel like second-rate citizens and made to feel like you degrade the show instead of adding to it?

    Forget the big show, create your own show, be the stars, be the big fish in the little pond not the little fish in the big pond. Let the fuel boys play in their ballpark on their day and on a different day let alky cars put on their show for their price, a price that will bring spectators to the stands, and show the fans what you all can do. How do you think Lucas Oil would react if they were the major sponsor of a series and did not have to play second fiddle to Coke? All this will take a little time and the proper amount of marketing, but it can be done.

    Rumor has it that Gary Scelzi will be driving an alky funny car. Shades of Nascar drivers working in the Bush series? Is this a good thing, will this turn into an opportunity for the class or only for a few car owners???

    That’s my 2 cents – fire away.
     
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  4. Dan Lynch

    Dan Lynch Member

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    Have any of you ever checked out the NHRA media site?

    There is a car shots section (photos) for the four pro classes. There is an "Other Photos" section and guess who is the only racer in that section???

    Check it out here

    Makes you sort of wonder???
     
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  5. nitrohawk

    nitrohawk New Member

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    Thurston, I agree with the "big fish little pond"
    concept. What is disturbing to me is what is being done at the Sports Nationals. This is a race where the alcohol racers should be the big fish but look at what has happened. They choose to omit the class from competetion. Am I the only one who thinks that this is a major problem for us. It seems as I have made several posts on this subject with very little interest generated. So now we have a situation where we are treated like the door cars at the nationals and the two major Sportsman races we are not even invited. This should be a race were the TAD/TAFC shoud get the majority of the tv time and be the featured show.
     
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  6. Thurston

    Thurston New

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    Nitrohawk, very well put, I think you and maybe a few others see the potential the Sportsman National hold for the alcohol cars. Why it doesn’t seem to bother others, that a real opportunity is getting away just doesn’t compute. Maybe big pond syndrome?

    I don’t know who’s responsible for the decision not to invite their Pro Sportsman class, NHRA or the track, but it’s a real kick in the *alls. Tommy Lipor is the only reason the Pro Modified were invited. Perhaps Lucas Oil would be the only company with a vested interest and enough clout with NHRA to include the alcohol cars and make it a win for Lucas, the racers, the track and the spectators.
     
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  7. The Kid

    The Kid New Member

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    I believe the story goes something like this.

    The "Sportsman Nationals" were redkindled when the NHRA decided they needed to cut more classes at nationals. S/C S/G and the others had enormous fields and tracks didn't have enought space and events didn't have enough time. So in order to replace that lost opportunity to gain national points for the sportsman racer the NHRA graciously created the "Sportsman Nationals".

    At least that's how NHRA and the promoting track wants it to be seen.

    Now, what was the first class to be cut from "select" national events?

    If the above were true the case Alky cars would be there right???

    So what was the real reason for the "Sportsman Nationals"?

    How about...

    Some tracks are completely unqualified to hold an NHRA national event. But, they would like the revenue that's generated by, not only the spectators, but the paying sportsman racers. So what could these track operators dream up that makes them a whole ton of money.

    How about a race where all the sportsman racers can pay to enter (like a national) and there are no pros or pro payouts. And, the payout doesn't need to be as high since it's not a national event, this is genious.

    Oh, sorry that's a divisional, no, tracks don't want a divisional because alky cars don't pay entry fees (well...) and have the largest payout.

    How about a divisional with no alky cars! Yes, now the tracks have all the money coming in and heck the money going out to these other classes is almost nothing. But why will racers come to these instead of a regular divisional? How about giving national points for this event? Perfect, that will double the field size. Now, maybe if a certain mail order company will sponsor the payouts anyway there will be no out going money just pure profit.


    Does this sound right to everyone or anyone else?

    A track would have to spend money to advertise to get spectators interested in attending the event. So in going with the, all money in no money out mindset, the alcohol cars just don't fit into the financial equation.

    Should alcohol cars be at the "Sportsman Nationals"
    Definitely

    Will they be added,
    (Not unless they pay for their own purses.)
     
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  8. nitrohawk

    nitrohawk New Member

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    Kid, you have got it right! We were told when the first race was to be run at No Problem that this was just an experiment and that the TAD/TAFC classes would "probably be added next year". NHRA blamed the omission of the class on the track by saying it was their decession. You talk to the track people and they said it was NHRA's idea.
    As I see it NHRA should have said that if you want the race you must include the top sportsman class. We have no one on our side in this. If they were going to give National points then most would have been willing to pay the entry fee. If you add the entry fee with the money spent hiring the cars to make exibition runs so they would have something to advertise in the NO 7 Baton Rouge major market areas it would have covered the purse. Like I have stated before it seemes to me that the powers to be have made a decession (if not publicly) to promote the Pro Mod class and starve the alky classes out. I agree with another post that the class is getting to close to the performance level of the "big show". Pro Mods will never do that. Maybe its time that the class formed its own organazation (or thru TARA) and promoted its own shows and sold them to sponsors and tracks. This would be possible even now.
     
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  9. Will Hanna

    Will Hanna We put the 'inside' in Top Alcohol
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    good thread so i figured i would bring it back up. maybe we can get some dialog with nhra on some of these issues at indy.

    also thumbs up to nhra for including hillary will in the blog reports! that's a big deal for the alcohol racers.
     
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  10. bruce mullins

    bruce mullins Top Dragster

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    whats up with t.a.r.a.? i haven't heard anything for a while. is it even still together?
     
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  11. D. Palmer

    D. Palmer TA/FC

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    I don't know if anyone else has noticed this but can anyone name another PRO or Sportsman racer/team, regardless of sanctioning body, that has had more mainstream national media coverage, (outside of ESPN), in the past year than Jay Blake and his Follow a Dream TAFC team. Since Sept. 04' Blake has been featured by CNN on the Aaron Brown show, by NBC on the Today show, and most recently on the CBS national evening news broadcast. Has NHRA even acknowledged this coverage of one of there own? No, in fact NHRA media relations, who in my opinion should roll out the red carpet for any national news crew that shows up to film anything at one of their events, made the CBS crew wait a half an hour in the parking lot at E-town. And I assure you NHRA media realations in Glendora was notified two weeks in advance that CBS national news would be there. I wonder if they were coming to film one of the PRO teams if this would have been the case, or if they would have been personally escorted on an NHRA golfcart?
    I am throwing this out here not to start bashing NHRA, but to see if there are any thoughts on how the alcohol racers in general can benefit from this coverage or use it to our advantage with NHRA? Jay is happy to get the mainstream coverage for the sport that he loves, and he will continue to do so. There is more national TV coverage coming in the near future. I'm not sure how but I feel confident that the class as a whole can benefit from this. Lets hear some ideas, Jay, like all of us wants to see this class prosper.
     
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  12. CarpusherTAD

    CarpusherTAD New Member

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    I don't think leaving the NHRA is the answer to this. You get left holding the bag if you get a couple of rainouts or other uncontrollable circumstances.
    The only way you are going to get the NHRA to pay attention to the class is to make the class pay. I think part of the problem is we, as a group, are not as marketable as we could be. We do not have sponsorship for the most part and that is hurting us.
    Don't forget that ESPN didn't, out of the goodness of their hearts, decide to televise the sportsmen on a 1 week delay. That had to have been negotiated by the NRHA. It shows they have some interest in the class.
    As far as being "leakers" are concerned. We might bring this on ourselves by sending cars to the line that are not ready to run. This is a lack of money issue pure and simple. If you run the motors at a lower RPM you will have the same problem, it will just take longer to happen.
    This class needs to be marketable pure and simple and nobody with any money is going to spend it waiting for that to happen. It needs to happen first and you will attract the sponsorship.
    I also think the combination of the 2 styles creates an identity crisis inside the class. It might need to be split but I am not sure if there are enough cars in the nation to support 2 classes.
    Bring on the flames!
     
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  13. eastcoast1

    eastcoast1 New Member

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    we as a group need to represent this class by acting very professional...take a look at the VIP Sports Stratus and Ashley's dragster. The cars look like Fuel cars, and you better beleive that a sponsor , or potential sponsor is going to put his money into a program that is first class.....a bit of the rich get richer thing here. But this is just a fact. But again, as a class we can combat this. Everyone needs to start looking, acting, speaking, like pro's. We have to become the feeder system for fuel teams...look at Ashley Force, she is being groomed to drive fuel, sponsors love it. The Olympic Gold bicycle racer wants to race TAFC. I am sure he knows how to handle sponsors, interviews, promotions, etc. Plus the mainstream media attention he will receive, regardless of his results will be a tremendous value to a sponsor and the NHRA. My personal opinion is that we need to brand the alcohol ranks as the feeder system into the fuel ranks...there are some good young drivers, that want to race alcohol (Force, Will, Olivarez, Marty Nothstein (Olympic cyclist- if he drives) etc.) these "young guns" are the image the alcohol ranks need.

    Kudos to Jay Blake....for attracting more mainstream media into our sport. His is story is unique, but it's still drag racing on the major networks. The road might be rocky but I think the future is bright. We just need a better, more professional image....create future stars, promote each other, and sell the idea to corporate America that some of these young drivers are the next great ones. Get on while it's cheap. It also would not hurt if NHRA would get involved. They will if enough waves are made.
     
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  14. Darren Smith

    Darren Smith New Member

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    I hope I don't get slammed over this, but Eastcoast is right! I know Pro mods are a Hot button issue here, but they Blow away TAFC's in the marketing dept! TAFC guys don't put priority in they're Paintjobs anymore! True... Paint scheme's don't win races and cost Big bucks, but it's called selling the class! In PM you see Gotham City, Dr. Moon's rage, etc. TAFC's have abandoned that theme and I think that's a mistake! In IHRA there is still some of that flavor left, but in NHRA that stuff ended with Boogie man and Harley Griffith's Evil wicked Mean and Nasty!
     
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  15. CarpusherTAD

    CarpusherTAD New Member

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    This is off the top of my head. The wife says I shouldn't do this as I don't have much to spare, but here goes. This is what I think. If you have a different opinion, cool. I will respect your as much as you respect mine.

    If you want to make a market, the first thing you need to do is be marketable. It seems to me that if we, as a group, become more marketable the class takes care of itself

    Appearance:
    If you have guys in your crew that you wouldn't let in your house because you didn't know them, you're not marketable.
    If you never have won a "Best Appearing Crew" Award, or when you ask why not, you get a laugh, you're not marketable. And we are not talking about Black on Black on Black here guys. This is a summer sport, what are we thinking?
    You can't show up in a little trailer with parts on the floor and grease stains on the walls. It might be organized for what you want to do and suits your purposes but if it's not clean to the uninformed eye, you’re a slob and do not project a good corporate image.
    Another thing is to be corporate IN ALL THINGS when you are at the race track. If you like to drink beer, do it after the car gets put away. If ANYBODY is working on the car, nobody should be drinking around the car. Again, these actions do not project a good corporate image.
    Be nice to EVERYBODY. You never know who is walking by or who is listening to you whine about how the rules suck. Be positive when somebody asks you a question. "We are battling and will be ready for them in the next round".
    Remember, if you get sponsor money, as soon as that trailer leaves the driveway, and until it returns, you are a spokesmen for that sponsor. In word and deed.

    Performance:
    I know this is going to kick the hornets nest and I will not get into the finger pointing here but when you try to explain to a novice why the fast guys in the final ran a .28 yesterday but can't run a .60 now, they don't understand. We need to change the class. This is, by definition, a blown class, listed as a blown class. Another class needs to be added. Call it "A/Fuel Eliminator" or some such but the A/fuel cars really need to be split away. Let them run 100% and put on a show. Right now it's like running sprint cars with Indy cars. It's all oval track racing so it's OK? You'll get tracks that favor each but your going to frustrate people and the uninformed will say, "WTF??????" Are their enough cars in the nation to support 2 classes? Will the sponsor support another class? I don't know but something needs to be done. I would like to know how many crews look at the weather and decide not to go to a race. Not because they think it's going to rain but that the other cars in the class will have an advantage that can't be overcome simply because of conditions?

    Promotion:
    The divisional races are suffering from lack of interest. People have to be told of the schedule, be it thru papers, radio, TV or a combination of all. Who's fault? I don't know, but it needs to be looked at.
    Everybody needs to have an easy to navigate website. You need to explain what your doing, how your doing it and what you are going to do for the people that are going to give you money to race.
    Post your schedule on the website. Not just for the fans but for your potential sponsors to see the exposure they are going to get for their money.
    I like the idea of the finals being covered in the delayed same day telecast. I understand the NHRA got a big concession to have taped coverage a week late but I think coverage of the class finals a week ahead of time would make people want to see how those guys got there, Or maybe not.
    Does everybody know that the NHRA has a marketing director for the Lucas Oil Series? Has anybody ever talked to him? Asked him what he does? How he can help? His name is Eric Lotz.

    Interviews:
    Practice your interviews. I know you look and feel stupid when your doing it, but the practice helps. The same questions get asked all the time, more or less.
    If you have a sponsor, be able to recite the names of those sponsors WITHOUT looking at the car. This looks REALLY bad on TV.
    Save your interviews and use them as a marketing tool. You can submit a copy of your interviews to a potential sponsor and say, "This is how I present myself".
    Just because a guy walks up to you at the big end and sticks a microphone in your face doesn't mean it has to come off on the first take. Ask them for help if you are nervous. They don't want you to look bad either.
    Wear a hat. If you have a sponsor, wear the hat. Tuck it in your suit and put it on as soon as your helmet is off. If you have a potential sponsor, get a hat and wear it. If you get interviewed wearing the hat, send them the tape. "See, I like you guys anyway, how about some help"?

    I'm sure there is more to do but I have to earn money now. Thanks for the time.
     
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  16. bruce mullins

    bruce mullins Top Dragster

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    MONEY , MONEY, AND MORE MONEY. this is the answer to all the problems. at least that is what everyone is saying. i looked into putting a new stratus body on my car. so here it is. $9200 from rousch. then add $4500 to $8500 to get it mounted, then for one of those outrageous paint jobs $7500. . WOW $25,000 and that gaurentees NOTHING. i understand your point. in the past you can look at my cars and i have always tried to have the eyecatcher paint job, the flamed crewshirts and make sure i was cleanshaved and hair in place , but that also got me nothing. i have done everything i could do within my dollar and i am sure most alcohol racers do. look at how long tate branch was out after his fire. in ain't cheap so of course the class is dying. same deal with the dragsters. you mention ahsley force, come on . talk about deep pockets and beign groomed. lets talk about hillary will. my congrats to her. she didn't get a high dollar ticker tape parade when she came into the class and hasn't done anything but perform. finally someone is moving up from the alky class . how about karen benkovich? she has kicked but and has a classy operation. i haven't heard of people knocking down her door with offers. i am not knocking peoples ideas i am just a realist, i could of paid off my house with what i have spent in the past years that i have raced one of these, trying my hardest to keep oil in the pan, and presenting my team to corporate america ,but some of the best laid out plans just don't seem to work. i have had to sit out for a while due to the costs and it sucks. there are a lot of well deserving people in these classes that deserve alot but as the old saying goes, the rich keep getting richer because as the cost to run and promote keeps going up the little guys fall off. we all do what we can do, and alot of racers have left the class and retired to other things because sooner or later we all have to draw the line. i hope the class is still around for another 25 years or longer so todays youth can dream of pretty paintjobs and long smokey burnouts just as i once did ( oops i am geezing).
     
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  17. Thurston

    Thurston New

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    Dido on what Darren said; our race team has believed for some time that the Pro Mods have out shined the funny cars, at least in IHRA. When it comes to getting the fans attention with paint the Pro Mods do it best, the cars the drivers and crew have personality, and fans relate to the looks/personality of the car as much as they do the on track performance.

    Corporate sponsor don’t bring fans, just the opposite, they expect the race team to have a fan base, and with their marketing dollars help grow that base and make your fans into their customers. Get a fan base on your side, and the chances of attracting a corporate sponsor is much better.

    As and example (Yes this is a shameless self promotion) this spring we decided our funny needed more than just a nice (read expensive) paint job and the sponsor’s name in big letters on the car, it needed a personality, something that made it stand out from the crowd and get the attention of the general race fan. I’m proud of the results, even though we have not won a race all year, (our on track performance has not been what you would call championship form), but the fan response to our efforts have been huge. At the Funny car nationals, we handed out over 1,000 hero cards and the driver signed close to half. At Toronto over 700 were handed out with a good 300 signed by the driver. In total we started with 5,000 since the beginning of the year and were just about out. After Toronto we received numerous emails telling us we were their favorite car and we didn’t even qualify for the race. Most IHRA fuel teams would be very happy with those kinds of results.

    Stand back and take a good look at your operation and ask yourself, if I were a spectator in the stands watching or walking around the pits, would this car/team make me want to stop and talk/relate to them and find out what their all about??

    Great discussion, keep it going.


    Jim Thurston
    Crew Chief
    TNT Motor Sports
    Torco Race Fuels
    Dodge Avenger
     
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  18. flash

    flash top alcohol

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    I think the disappointing thing about corporate america is you can do everything right,spend a lot of money doing it right,but if you don't meet the age demographics of that sponsor,you won't get that sponsors money! it's no accident that mark martin is sponsored by viagra,it would not fit that company's demographics for dale jr. or some other young gun driver to be their spokesman for that product.so you have to pick your battles wisely to have any chance at corparate dollars,hiilary will is young,female,and probably meets what certain company's wanted as that spokesperson.I met darrell russell a few years ago at houston,young,good looking,very well spoken,great reputation with past success,it made me see why he became so well liked in the drag racing & corporate america.what a shame the way things ended for him. do not have the answer but a lot of old or middle aged alcohol guys and women just don't fit that mold today. if the class is going to survive there's got to be a mix of both age groups with corporate dollars for both age groups!
     
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